Large-scale particle physics laboratories around the world have huge accelerators with a circumference of up to 27 km, as in the case of CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire). Tremendously costly experiments to study the creation and annihilation of matter are conducted in these accelerators. Would it be possible to simulate these collisions in small experiments on a table top? In 2011 the QUTIS Group led at the UPV/EHU by the Ikerbasque professor Enrique Solano presented a theoretical proposal which they were able to verify seven years later at the trapped-ion laboratory of Prof Kihwan Kim of the University of Tsinghua.
"We set up a quantum theatre in which the particles behave like actors in a quantum computer, in other words, some imitate others for various purposes," explained Prof Enrique Solano. There was a fun side to this but also a very practical one, since these experiments would in the future entail the saving of money and would also involve controlled tests that would be impossible to calculate using conventional computers. "We managed to imitate how matter (represented by fermions, one of the two types of elementary particles that exist in nature) and antimatter (anti-fermions) is created and destroyed using lasers, loaded atoms (ions) and atomic traps. In other words, we simulated physics that is very similar to that of the large accelerators using a trapped-ion quantum computer," added the head of the QUTIS Group.
About the QUTIS group
The QUTIS Group is a world leader in quantum simulation and computation and has come up with proposals for quantum implementations that have been carried out by leading labs across the world. The group collaborates with researchers all over the world and works in a range of quantum platforms, such as trapped ions, superconductor circuits, quantum photonics, and nuclear magnetic resonance. It also routinely collaborates with multinational technology companies in the sector, such as Google and IBM. The team of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, which has participated in this experiment, is led by Prof Enrique Solano, and Drs Lucas Lamata, Jorge Casanova, and Julen Pedernales have also been involved in it. Jorge Casanova, and Julen Pedernales began participating in this project during their work in QUTIS and are currently post-PhD researchers at the University of Ulm (Germany).
Xiang Zhang, Kuan Zhang, Yangchao Shen, Shuaining Zhang, Jing-Ning Zhang, Man-Hong Yung, Jorge Casanova, Julen S. Pedernales, Lucas Lamata, Enrique Solano & Kihwan Kim Experimental quantum simulation of fermion-antifermion scattering via boson exchange in a trapped ion* Nature Communications 9, 195 (2018) DOI:10.1038/s41467-017-02507-y